Beyoncé performs on stage in Houston in 2018. Photo by Cat Cardenas

When Beyoncé announced in a commercial during this year’s Super Bowl that a new album was dropping March 29, the Beyhive buzzed with excitement. Excitement peaked at the end of the ad, when suddenly the scene showed what looked like a West Texas desert landscape. As an old yellow taxi pulled away, its wheels kicking up dust, a country-tinged tune started playing. Then a billboard appeared with the words “Texas! Hold ‘Em” emblazoned in black letters above a reclining, bikini-clad, cowboy hat and boots-wearing cartoon Beyoncé. “This ain’t Texas. Ain’t no hold ‘em,” she sang. “Lay your cards down, down, down, down.” Fans in one collective gasp asked: Is Queen Bey putting out a country album?

The answer dropped last Friday. Yes, the new album, Cowboy Carter, the second of the singer’s three-act project that began with the Renaissance album and tour last summer, is heavily influenced by country music. Its 27 songs include a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and a sound bite of Willie Nelson. But that’s not all—fellow Texan Post Malone makes an appearance, as does Southern belle Miley Cyrus. Beyoncé has become the first Black woman to top Billboard’s country songs chart with her single “Texas Hold ‘Em,” and no group of fans is more thrilled about the return to her Southern roots than those in her hometown of Houston. The Houston Chronicle called her album “an instant classic.

One Houstonian dedicated to educating folks on Beyoncé’s legacy is Keith Rosen, owner and primary tour director of Houston Historical Tours. His company offers three different celebrity tours around the city, one of which is the Beyoncé Tour. (Janis Joplin and Selena are the other two.)

“We get all kinds of people for the tour, but it’s almost always women,” Rosen says. The tour, which he launched in 2017, comes in four different variations between four and seven hours long, taking visitors to all kinds of Beyoncé relevant locations. Stops include schools she attended, recording studios she made music at, and her childhood homes.

The tour not only focuses on Beyoncé as an independent artist, but also gives props to her Destiny’s Child era. These stops include Lakewood Church off of Edloe Street in Upper Kirby (where the group once opened for bigger bands like TLC and later headlined in 2001 and 2002); SugarHill Studio, where the girls recorded their hit song “Bootylicious;” and the Astrodome and Toyota Center, where the group played on multiple occasions in the early 2000s, including the 2001 Houston Rodeo.

With 18 total stops, the seven-hour tour took a lot of research and time to put together, says Rosen, who is a career research historian. He spent years looking through public records and historic files and documents to ensure that the tour he put on was as authentic as possible. This included sifting through old newspaper articles, property records, and the Yellow Pages, and even conducting interviews to make sure the restaurants included in the lunch stops (Frenchy’s Chicken, Pappadeaux, and This Is It Soul Food) were truly her favorites.

Rosen expects an increase in demand for his tour with the release of Cowboy Carter, regardless of it being labeled a country album. He says there’s usually a spike in interest anytime Beyoncé releases new music or has a child, or even just in May when bachelorette parties run rampant through the Houston streets.

But even during the Beyoncé off-season, Rosen gets requests. People from the city or around the country hope to learn more about their favorite star—whether coupled up, with friends, or taking the tour solo, no one is ever alone on the Beyoncé tour. “Beyoncé really brings people together,” Rosen says.


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